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How to choose the right RFP software

How to choose the right RFP software

According to Bill Gates, “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share […]


Category: Products/Features/Solutions

How to choose the right RFP software

How to choose the right RFP software

According to Bill Gates, “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.”

Software, as Bill Gates reminds us, is a tool. The best software breaks down silos and encourages collaboration. The best software is agile—it addresses its customers’ needs today and quickly adapts to tomorrow’s. 

The best software is built by humans. Machine learning technology adapts the software to its users’ needs. Great software companies go even further by using customer feedback to routinely improve their products. 

Great RFP software and software companies do all that but with the specific goal of encouraging efficiency in the RFP response process. The most successful responders see the best results by collaborating within a single response management platform…RFP software.

What is RFP software?

Request for proposal (RFP) software helps organizations respond to more RFPs in less time. Of course, that barely scratches the surface of advanced RFP software capabilities. Advanced RFP software helps optimize every step of the RFP process, from before the document is received to after the bid is made. 

Essential RFP software features

An efficient response management platform includes features that streamline your team’s workflow. At the very minimum, RFP software should feature: 

Import and export capabilities

Before the advent of RFP software, there were *gasp* manual processes. Of course, the challenge is that issuers send RFPs in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Google Docs and Sheets, and sometimes PDFs. And—this will surprise no one—issuers weren’t (and still aren’t) consistent in their formatting inside their docs, spreadsheets, or PDFs. 

Have you ever searched a poorly organized spreadsheet? Where do you search docs or PDFs if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Manual importing is tedious and time-consuming. In fact, it can be the most time-consuming part of a manual RFP process. 

RFP response software should be able to recognize critical questions and information, regardless of the format, and import them into your RFP software.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who say there are two kinds of people and people who don’t. There are also spreadsheet people and doc people, although some live on the wild side and do both. 

Spreadsheets are mathematical and formulaic, but that doesn’t mean the formulas are standard from RFP to RFP. RFP software imports spreadsheets in a couple of ways:

  • Standard template – Basic RFP software allows for standard template import, where you download the template spreadsheet, copy/paste the questions, and then upload it. 
  • RFPIO’s advanced configuration – Forget copy/pasting. Advanced configuration lets you process raw source files, customized how you want them. Beyond that, RFPIO automatically detects predefined dropdowns and automatically configures the sections.

Word and Google Docs, on the other hand, are more visual. The biggest challenge with Word and Google Docs is knowing what you need to reply to. Word and Google documents often have a lot of filler, such as company detail, at the beginning of an RFP. 

While most RFP software can import the text from Word, they have difficulty distinguishing between what’s useful and what isn’t. RFPIO reads the document’s style guide and can auto-identify sections and questions. 

Often, RFPs arrive in mixed formats. Many Word documents have Excel tables or charts inserted into the doc. Not a problem, at least when you’re using RFPIO. Many of the same rules apply to importing Word and mixed documents as to Excel sheets:

  • Identify the sections, questions, and answers in the original document.
  • Process the source document and customize it using RFPIO’s advanced configuration.
  • Preview to make sure everything is in the right place.

RFPIO’s advanced import and export capabilities can shave as much as half the response time. 

Content management

In the early 2000s, workers whose jobs required access to company knowledge spent about 2.5 hours a day searching for information. If you’re old enough to remember, those were the days of dial-up, AOL, and Ask Jeeves. Software as a service (SaaS) was unheard of. 

Twenty years later, nearly everyone has the internet. Need an answer to a question? Google it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a business problem that can’t be addressed using a SaaS application. Surprisingly, the time spent searching for knowledge has increased from a bit over ¼ of the workday to nearly half.

Why would that be? There are probably a couple of reasons, including that businesses are a lot more siloed now than they were at the turn of the millennium—and of course, there’s a heck of a lot more knowledge to search. 

Not surprisingly, disjointed content is one of the top challenges of an RFP process. RFPIO’s Content Library not only simplifies the search but also does much of the work for you. 

RFPIO’s Content Library:

  • Stores marketing approved content in one place – Your company’s single source of truth.
  • Lets you stitch together high-quality content – Browse previous responses to create customized answers.
  • Create content – Once you answer a question, you can store the Q&A pair for future needs. As your company accumulates knowledge or documents, it’s simple to upload it into your Content Library.
  • Format content – Organize and format content however you like. 
  • Automatically answer the majority of questions – With just a few clicks, you can answer up to 80% of the questions on an RFP, regardless of the format. 
  • Encourages regular content audits – Keep your Content Library fresh and up to date with regular audits. RFPIO will remind you when it’s time to review specific content. 

Integrations

When it comes to breaking down silos, RFPIO walks the walk with industry-leading integrations. Users from across your company can access RFPIO through more than two dozen applications you already use, including:

  • CRMs – RFPIO is an ideal solution for all revenue-generating teams, not just response management. Access the Content Library and other RFPIO features through your company’s chosen CRM, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, Dynamics 365, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot.
  • Communication apps – RFPIO enables company-wide collaboration through your existing communication apps, including Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Cloud storage apps – Worldwide, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. Cloud storage enables companies to manage data without accumulating vast technical debt. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. 
  • SSO authentication apps – RFPIO works within your company’s security protocols through SSO authentication integrations with Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta.
  • Browser extensions – Access RFPIO’s Content Library through RFPIO® LookUp and Chrome.
  • Vendor assessment apps – Securely import directly from third-party platforms using Whistic. 
  • Productivity apps – Work faster using RFPIO with Microsoft Suites and Google Sheets.
  • Sales enablement apps – Revenue-generating employees can access RFPIO through Seismic or Highspot. 

AI assistance

RFP automation slashes time spent answering RFPs. RFPIO goes beyond simple automation. We use machine learning to intelligently assist you through every step of the RFP response process. Leverage RFPIO to:

  • Auto-identify response content – RFPIO’s advanced artificial intelligence automatically identifies response content.
  • Get automated answers – RFPIO’s AI-powered recommendation engine pulls from the Content Library to recommend answers based on previous similar questions.
  • Assign questions to pertinent subject matter experts – With RFPIO, there’s no more trying to figure out the best people to help with your RFP. AI technology identifies relevant and available SMEs.
  • Analyze win-loss opportunities – Not all RFPs are worth a response. Have you won similar bids in the past? Is this one worth it? RFPIO learns from previous wins and losses to help you decide whether to pursue the next one. 

The benefits of RFP response automation

Roughly 80% of a typical RFP consists of questions you’ve answered many, many times. Response automation lets you focus on the questions that matter most, the questions that will help you win the bid, by answering the routine queries with a click of a button. 

The benefits of leveraging RFP automation include: 

  • Streamlined workflow – RFPIO is not just a response management tool; it’s a project management platform. RFPIO uses automation to establish roles and ensure on-time deliverables.
  • Decreased response time – When a workplace tool does most of the work for you, it’s bound to increase productivity and reduce response time.
  • Improved response quality – Automated replies free you to craft winning responses to the essential questions.
  • Centralized content library – Automatically store and catalog responses in a single source of truth. 
  • Improved collaboration – RFPIO’s integrations enable company-wide collaboration.
  • Increased revenue growth – Responding to more of the right RFPs in less time means more opportunities to drive revenue.

Steps for choosing the right RFP management software

Choosing the right RFP management software shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are several factors to consider:

1. Assess your RFP response process

Before you commit to an annual RFP software subscription, schedule a meeting with your entire RFP response team (subject matter experts, executive stakeholders, bid writers, etc.). The goal is to discover gaps and opportunities in your current workflow, then make improvements through RFP automation.

2. Prioritize RFP software features

Now that you know what your RFP response team needs to thrive, it’s time to prioritize RFP software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have.” If having a holistic view of RFP projects is a top priority, project dashboards are a must-have. If communication is dialed in, then Slack or Microsoft Team integrations are a nice-to-have.

3. Explore RFP software comparison platforms

Third-party validation is a vital part of decision-making for any purchase, including RFP software. Think of G2 Crowd and Capterra as Yelp for software products. Use these RFP software comparison tools to compare and contrast features and check out customer feedback. Seeing use cases in the real RFP response management world will inspire ideas and validate decisions.

4. Make a data-driven value assessment

Have no idea how many hours your team spends on RFP responses? Demystify these costs by tracking everyone’s time. Use our ROI calculator to determine how much you will save on hours and resources with RFP response automation. Armed with data, you’ll rely on stats instead of emotions to make a strong case for additional funds to cover RFP software.

5. Understand the product and the service

Once you have narrowed down RFP software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering working with. Bring your priority features list, along with questions that need to be addressed. Pay special attention to the user experience as the solution should be quick and easy for all RFP contributors to learn.

rfp repsonse software

Important questions to ask RFP software vendors

Adding to your existing tech stack can be a challenging sell for executives and your IT department, so it’s essential to ask the right questions of potential RFP software vendors. 

  • What is the average ROI customers report after using your product? – There’s no surer way to secure executive buy-in than demonstrating your return on investment. ROI will vary from company to company. RFPIO’s proven ROI is as high as 600%. Calculate your ROI here. 
  • How would you describe your training and onboarding process? – You have executive buy-in; what about user buy-in? The onboarding process is vital for training and creating buzz over new software. RFPIO’s onboarding process is incremental, easy to follow, and designed to set you up for success. 
  • How do you manage customer requests and feedback? –Because needs vary from company to company and change from day to day, there’s no such thing as perfect software. RFPIO recognizes the importance of a bespoke solution, which means listening to every customer and addressing their individual needs.
  • What integrations are available? – Toggling between multiple applications is a pain. RFPIO integrates with over two dozen of the most popular business tools.
  • How would your software solve problems x, y, and z? – Is the RFP software going to address your company’s needs? It’s hard to imagine a response management problem RFPIO can’t solve, but if we’re not the right solution for some reason, we will tell you.
  • What are your data import and export capabilities? – If all RFP issuers used the same format, RFP response platforms might not be such a critical tool for response teams. RFPIO imports and exports from Microsoft Word, Excel, and even PDFs. 
  • Do you offer lifetime updates and enhancements? – Technology changes, as do your needs. RFPIO provides regular updates and enhancements.
  • What are your competitive differentiators? – What makes one RFP solution better than others? As mentioned, RFPIO offers more integrations and import/export options than any other RFP response software. We lead the pack in AI-powered automation. Additionally, we have an unprecedented pricing model. Instead of charging per user license, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects going at any given time. 

Automate your RFP process with a management solution that’s right for you

If you’re ready to see how RFP software will help you craft higher-quality responses to more RFPs in less time, schedule a free demo

 

Why you need RFP software

Why you need RFP software

The response process should be scalable, repeatable, and consistent.

Perhaps you remember the childhood game of “telephone.” In the game, one person thinks of a sentence and then whispers it to the next person in line; that person then whispers it to the next in line, and so on. Once everyone has heard the sentence, the last person has to say it out loud. Almost invariably, the final sentence has very little in common with the original. 

An RFP might land in someone’s inbox in a variety of formats, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or even as a PDF. You might share the RFP, or parts of it, with dozens of stakeholders, each with their own area of expertise. 

You could even have multiple stakeholders working on a single question or a single subject matter expert (SME) working on multiple RFPs, which, without the right processes in place, leads to inconsistent responses—a giant red flag to procurement teams.

In other words, an RFP can be like a written game of telephone. Multiple hands without centralized processes can delay and distort the response, meaning the response manager might have to spend hours, days, or even weeks trying to craft a cohesive response out of an anything but cohesive array of answers.

The solution is RFP software that is advanced enough to frame a response process that is consistent, repeatable, and scalable, regardless of the number of stakeholders involved. Let’s explore how RFP software can smooth out the response process, enabling you to drive more revenue in less time.

What is RFP software?

Clothing sizes, sports referees, traffic, RFPs—is consistency too much to ask? To be fair, consistency can get a little boring, but consistency in the RFP response process leads to better responses and perhaps more time for you to enjoy more of the chaos we call life outside of work.

As much as we’d love it if all RFPs arrived in consistent formats, they don’t. An effective RFP response tool is the foundation of a fine-tuned RFP process, creating consistency, repeatability, and scalability—transforming any RFP format into a predictably easy-to-navigate response.

Intelligent RFP software is able to import documents into a single format that’s simple and easily accessible by each stakeholder. In turn, the stakeholders submit their answers via the online portal, so project managers, writers, SMEs, etc., know who said what, when it was said, and how to find it, every single time, regardless of the RFP’s original format.

Once answers are in the system, you can store the Q&A pairs in the Content Library, or as I like to call it, The Single Source of Truth, for future use. But SMEs don’t have to wait for an RFP to add vital information to the Content Library. As they accumulate knowledge, rather than storing it on paper or in their heads (surprisingly common), they can add it to the Content Library, where it will remain accessible to all who need it. 

Additionally, RFPIO’s advanced RFP software is a project management platform, with features such as assigning and tracking roles and responsibilities, scheduled review cycles, trend analytics, built-in collaboration tools, and seamless integration with the most popular CRMs and other sales tools. 

In short, RFPIO software is both a scalable content management system and a project management tool, allowing teams to respond to more of the right bids in less time. 

Perhaps less tangibly, but as importantly, it instills trust in SMEs and other stakeholders, as they know that their efforts won’t be duplicated or wasted and that there’s a single repository of consistent and repeatable company knowledge. This enables companies to build on things as opposed to just trying to keep afloat.

Fundamental features to look for in RFP software

The two main features to look for in RFP response technology are project and content management. While response teams might function with one or the other feature, it’s far more difficult. 

You can answer RFPs without an automated and intuitive content management system, but that would make them a lot more difficult. On the other hand, you could have just a content database, but you’d lose context, such as where the content is, where the gaps are, and where you have old information that’s being pulled in without actually doing the RFPs.

Still, organizations should look for what their specific needs are. What are the most significant pain points? How will the needs grow in the future? 

The most common pain points we hear are:

  • Too much time spent on responses – An up-to-date and easily accessible content library means the difference between tracking stakeholders down and clicking a few buttons.
  • Low response capacity – More often than not, low response capacity comes from trying to do too much. All too often, replying to each and every RFP is seen as the safer bet. Imagine if dating singles took the same approach. Instead of “swiping right” on every opportunity, choose those that fit. An automated response process can help you choose wisely and simplify those worth pursuing. More importantly, automation helps ensure that responses are accurate and on time, but also compelling and competitive, which helps propel your bid to the top of the stack.
  • Disjointed workflow – For proposal teams, a disjointed workflow is a confidence killer! When stakeholders cannot follow the process, they may find themselves wondering “why bother?” RFPIO’s project management features ensure up-to-the-minute statuses on each proposal. And when someone is stuck, others can see where they are stuck and help. 
  • Inconsistent deliverables – RFP software eliminates the differences between formats, makes questions easy to locate, and simplifies collaboration, even in siloed organizations. Perhaps more significantly, RFP software enforces rules and parameters, such as character limits.

Why you need RFP software

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the growth of remote work opportunities has brought the term “distributed workforce” into the mainstream. However, with worldwide offices, multiple brands under single umbrellas, etc., distributed workforces have been around for a very long time.

It’s common for a response to require SMEs from multiple time zones or for a single SME to work on responses from half the world away, and even from different brands under their corporate umbrella. 

Response software such as RFPIO allows for different versions of questions and answers. So rather than responding to each RFP from scratch, RFPIO lets SMEs add to or change content to tailor each RFP, ensuring that there’s less of a risk of discrepancies. 

RFPIO features include:

  • Content management – Repeatable company information in a single source, ready to go at the click-of-a-button.
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the most popular CRMs, project management systems, communication apps, sales enablement tools, etc. 
  • Automation – RFPIO continually learns as you work and suggests answers as you go, providing repeatability. The platform also automatically transfers RFPs from multiple formats into a single, consistent, accessible, predictable one.
  • A unique, project-based pricing approach – User-based pricing limits response teams, creates bottlenecks and incentivizes teams to limit their use of SMEs. Instead, RFPIO includes unlimited users in all of the pricing levels. 
  • Scalability – RFPIO has no data or user limits. The software grows as the company grows and changes. Moreover, as the RFP industry evolves, so does RFPIO, without burdening existing tech stacks..

How RFP software can help

I will let you in on a little secret. RFP software, even cutting-edge RFP software such as RFPIO, is not a magic wand. It will never replace response teams, but advanced RFP technology will make their jobs more efficient and productive, ultimately making everyone, even CFOs, happy.

However, the only way RFP software can truly add value is if it works with response management teams rather than the other way around. That includes:

More productive collaboration

Improving collaboration is key to effective RFP management. Most organizations have distributed workforces, and even those that don’t might have off-premises response stakeholders and SMEs. 

Chasing people down for answers is a waste of time. RFPIO allows any stakeholder to log in at any time and see exactly what is being asked of them. 

Integrations

RFP software should work with tech stacks instead of adding to them. RFPIO does precisely that by seamlessly integrating with more than two dozen of the most popular workplace tools, including:

  • CRM – Break down the silos between sales and response teams with CRM integrations, including Salesforce, Dynamics 365, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot
  • Communication apps – Stay in touch with stakeholders with Google Hangouts, Jira, Microsoft Teams, and Slack
  • Cloud storage – Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive
  • SSO authentication – Login through Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta
  • Browser extensions – Access RFPIO through Chromium Edge or Google Chrome
  • Vendor assessment – Streamline security questionnaires through Whistic
  • Productivity – Import RFPs from nearly any format, including Microsoft Suites, Google Sheets, and PDFs
  • Sales enablement – Import and export content using Seismic or Highspot

RFPIO’s project management features allow project managers to ensure efficiency, establish roles and deadlines, protect your RFP response content, and curate and cultivate your Content Library.

Automated import process

Manual imports are the most time-consuming part of the RFP response process. RFPIO’s advanced import tools turn RFPs from nearly any format into consistent and easily-collaborative content.

Content Library

As I’ve mentioned, consistency is key in response management. In fact, repeating yourself is perhaps the easiest way to streamline your response process, especially since most questions are repeats, or at least variations on questions you’ve seen before.

Keep all your content in one easily accessible place with RFPIO’s AI-empowered Content Library. When you encounter one of those repeated questions, the Content Library will automatically suggest a company-approved answer. All you have to do is click a button and tailor the answer if needed.

knowledge management tool decreases RFP response time by:

  • Providing a searchable information hub
  • Housing reusable content
  • Enabling customization using previous responses
  • Facilitating content accuracy

AI-powered recommendation engine

We like to think of RFPIO as a response team’s brilliant assistant. Stumped on a question or you don’t have time to scour the database? That’s what the AI-powered recommendation engine is for. It:

  • Answers common repetitive questions
  • Auto-identifies response content
  • Assigns questions to pertinent SMEs

Enhanced security

RFPIO’s multi-level security enhancements protect organizations’ most valuable assets, company knowledge, with RFPIO’s state-of-the-art security controls

  • SSO – Using Single Sign-On, you won’t have to memorize passwords. Simply login using your company credentials. 
  • Automate user management – Automatically delete users when they leave the company
  • 2-factor authentication – If your company doesn’t use SSO, RFPIO also supports 2-factor authentication.
  • Control access – Define what users can and can’t see.

Let’s talk about the bigger picture. The ultimate goal of more effective RFP management is to win more business! RFPIO gives response management teams more time to craft better answers to more RFPs. It sounds simple, right? Again, it’s all about scalability, repeatability, and consistency.

With RFPIO, you can increase your win potential by responding to the right opportunities in a consistent, repeatable voice, using consistent, scalable answers in a repeatable, easily collaborative, and searchable format.

Scale your team’s ability to answer RFPs

By optimizing the amount of time spent on repetitive manual processes, your team is freed up to dedicate their resources to pursuing new business.

Produce higher quality responses, consistently

In a highly competitive landscape, businesses cannot afford to gamble by underperforming at the proposal stage. RFP software enables consistency through dependable accuracy, helping ensure finely-tuned responses, and creating reliable deliverables through export functionality. 

Start winning more bids with RFPIO

RFPIO is the industry-leading response management platform, designed to securely increase RFP win rates and drive revenue.  Learn more by scheduling a Free Demo

Now, if only we could do something about clothing sizes. 

Next, we’ll discuss knowledge management best practices.

What is RFP software?

What is RFP software?

In many companies, proposal and sales teams are stretched to their limits. Even though high-revenue sales requests often arrive via RFP, it’s often easiest to grab those ready-to-close sales leads, even if it means less revenue.

Feature-rich advanced RFP software allows overstretched response management and sales departments to reach for the brass rings—those winnable and profitable RFPs—using significantly fewer employee hours and resources.

If your organization uses dated software or a manual RFP process, or if time constraints prohibit RFP responses altogether, read on to learn about RFP software and how it could benefit your organization.

What is an RFP?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that a buyer issues to suppliers that outlines the product or service requirements for procurement. RFPs come in a variety of different formats and narratives (similar to essay questions).

An RFP is the highest form of communication in the procurement process. Most deals are for more than $20,000—often significantly more, like with extra zeros and another comma. They are most common in government, software, insurance, business services, healthcare, and other complex, highly-regulated industries.

Security questionnaires determine whether a vendor (or even the vendor’s vendors) is compliant with the customer’s security requirements. They may include questions about security and privacy, business continuity management, supply chain management, business continuity management, etc. Not surprisingly, security questionnaires are lengthy and complicated, sometimes with hundreds of questions.

Additionally, there are requests for quotes (RFQ)—typically for purchasing goods rather than services—and requests for information (RFI). RFQs, as you might imagine, are about the bottom line, which makes sense when purchasing several gross of industrial screws, but not services that require a more bespoke approach. On the other hand, an RFI might be used to narrow potential suppliers down for future RFP solicitations.

Of course, RFPs often include RFQs, security questionnaires, and RFIs.

What are the objectives of an RFP?

The main objective of an RFP is for organizations to formally announce that they are opening a project for bids. RFPs are more formal and exacting than simple requests for pricing, and they’re typically for larger purchases.

An RFP will describe the needs and expectations of the issuer’s project and create the parameters to compare solutions.

RFPs generally require specific information about regulatory compliance, security, etc. In fact, it helps to think of an RFP response as the precursor to a sales contract and something that would even pass muster with legal departments—and quite often, legal has to approve responses before they’re sent to the customer.

RFPs ask for accurate, compliant, contract-ready answers to customer questions. Compare it to purchasing a house. You might want to know the current state of water or electrical systems, and as part of the presales contract process, the homeowner has to submit the answers in writing. The seller is then legally bound to the accuracy of their answers.

Common problems in the RFP response process

The RFP response is more complex than the uninitiated might think, which is why manual processes only allow for a couple of responses per year. There are a few notable challenges in the RFP response process, including:

The workload – Single RFPs often include hundreds of pages, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. Imagine answering dozens of RFPs per year when you use manual processes!

Content quality – You have one shot at answering an RFP correctly. Content should be centralized, current, and accurate, which requires advanced cataloging.

Collaboration – If an answer isn’t in your content library, the RFP will require collaboration, which means consulting with subject matter experts (SMEs). Having multiple people provide different answers is like herding cats, and extremely difficult without response management.

Detail – RFPs require impeccably detailed and accurate answers using existing knowledge and collaboration from SMEs.

Deadline – RFP deadlines are firm and many responses are time stamped. Missing a deadline by just a few seconds can rule your company out. Response management should keep you on track throughout the response process.

Consistency – An RFP response process should ensure consistent and on-time deliverables.

What are the three levels of RFP software?

There are three levels of RFP software. The first, manual processes, include some software, such as documents, spreadsheets, and a folder tree, but little else. Manual processes are generally acceptable for companies that only respond to a couple of RFPs a year.

I typically refer to the next level of RFP software as “the document suites.” This includes word-processing software composed of essential collaboration tools, content management, templates, and formatting. Document suites are suitable for companies that answer a handful of RFPs each year.

When RFP-based deals are an essential source of revenue, most organizations opt for the third level—a Response Management solution. These solutions help businesses with responses ranging from RFPs to security questionnaires, and offer the most advanced functionality for creating RFPs and managing their workflows. They save time, money, and costly errors through machine learning, robust integrations, and comprehensive and intuitive content management tools.

What are the benefits of RFP software?

RFP software solutions remove most of the above challenges by automating as much as 80% of the response process.

To a harried response manager, RFP software is a game-changer. To their employer, RFP software offers a demonstrably impressive return on investment.

Because RFPs are unique, even when they come from existing customers, and because businesses and regulatory requirements are in near-constant flux, most responses require additional input from SMEs. Through RFP software automation, but still at the response manager’s discretion, the SMEs’ answers will then go into the content library for future use.

Features of Response Management software

RFP solutions are capable solutions designed to help organizations engage with external stakeholders in an efficient, strategic, and consistent manner. They support the process of responding to customers and other stakeholders by leveraging new developments in machine learning and collaborative cloud technology to break down knowledge silos and automate repetitive tasks.

Responding to RFPs is one of the most popular response management use cases, and for this reason, most solutions have been designed to meet the specific needs of proposal managers.

So what are the key features?

Machine learning – With machine learning, you are the teacher. The system learns how you work and how you answer questions, enabling a click-of-a-button response the next time you encounter similar queries.

Scalability – A scalable solution that can grow and adapt to support your company as its operations grow and business needs change

Workflow Automation – Customizable automated workflows and dozens of integrations allow for easy collaboration.

Professional Document Production – Create professional high-fidelity response documents with the correct formatting in just a few keystrokes.

Data insights – Analyzing the efficiency of the RFP response process requires good reporting, including tracking the response team’s progress, the types of responses you’re issuing (and winning), win/loss analysis, etc. You shouldn’t be limited to the data the software designer thinks is important. RFPIO lets you create reports the way you want them. If you use reporting suites, we probably integrate with them too.

Advanced Content Management – RFP software solutions provide enterprise-grade content management to ensure content repositories are current and complete.

The benefits of using RFP software

Has this ever happened to you? The moment you begin reading a proposal request, you experience a sense of déjà vu. It’s not your imagination. You have answered most of these questions before…many times before.

Most of a typical RFP includes relatively standard questions. RFP software automates most of the response process, freeing you to consult with SMEs and coordinate the response process.

Optimized workflow

RFPIO optimizes workflow by smoothing out the content creation process, establishing workflow roles, providing selective collaboration, curating and cultivating your content library, and letting you spend more time on presentations instead of herding cats.

With RFPIO software, users can rename and customize fields and intake forms, and customize frameworks and business processes. RFPIO software is a tool that fits with your processes instead of the other way around. In fact, RFPIO integrates with more workflow tools than any other response management platform.

Unified collaboration

The response process can include dozens of stakeholders from multiple departments and time zones. Timely collaboration can be a challenge, but not with RFPIO. RFPIO integrates with most project management and messaging apps, and collaboration is built into RFPIO’s platform.

RFPIO’s collaborative tools allow you to:

  • Consolidate project-specific conversations – Never lose track of comment threads again.
  • Break down knowledge silos – Each stakeholder on a response has a singular goal…winning the bid! RFPIO allows you to share knowledge with stakeholders as needed, and vice versa.
  • Track progress of response completion – See whether the project is running on time and whether each stakeholder is doing their part.

Improved win rates

The average RFP win rate is 45%. Advanced response software uses AI to streamline the response process, which means you have more time to respond to more RFPs and win more bids. Additionally, RFPIO’s Content Library helps improve response quality by suggesting pre-approved answers to most queries, leading to an increased win rate.

Even if your win rate has only nominal gains, you will still produce more revenue because, as with many other things, RFP response is a numbers game. If you have the time to respond to more RFPs, you will have more victories and drive revenue.

“Since implementing RFPIO, we’ve been able to do so much more with the same headcount. We’ve increased efficiency by at least 30-35%. We’ve diverted the effort and time to more value-added activities, creating a win-win both for the organization and the team members”.
Shashi K, Assistant VP of Content at Genpact

RFPIO’s project management features help expedite response turnaround time, scale response capacity, and facilitate consistent deliverables.

The RFPIO approach

RFPIO is the most advanced RFP solution on the market

“RFPIO is perfect! 10 out of 10, a hundred percent 10 out of 10. RFPIO is a superb product. It is the best platform for RFP management out there.”
Jack Pierce, Proposal Team Manager, Accruent

Features include:

Proprietary import and export technology

Most RFPs show up in your inbox as Word or Excel docs. Some appear as PDFs, which less advanced RFP response platforms can’t read. RFPIO simplifies the import/export process, even with PDFs, thereby shortening the response time and delivering accurate, timely, and impressive bids. RFPIO’s industry-leading import/export features include:

  • Machine-learning-driven functionality that interprets questionnaires and parses them into components.
  • Specific functionality for the import of several standard questionnaire formats (CAIQ, CORL, ILPA, etc.)
  • Modern, intuitive UX for guiding our machine learning during import.

Adaptive knowledge library

The most time-consuming part of the response process isn’t strategizing. It isn’t even herding those metaphorical cats. Most of an RFP’s questions have probably been answered before, whether for that customer or others—sometimes several others. Answering those redundant questions is where the bulk of response time lies.

RFPIO’s AI-enhanced Content Library expedites the response process by automatically providing pre-approved answers to those tedious questions with just a few keystrokes. RFPIO’s web-based Content Library includes:

  • Auto-suggested answers
  • Auto-assigned content to relevant owners
  • Intelligent, easy search function
  • Cloud-based content storage

Built-in integrations

RFPIO is scalable and seamlessly integrates with over two dozen of the most popular sales enablement tools, productivity apps, CRMs, cloud storage providers, communication platforms, and SSO authentication software products.

  • CRMs – RFPIO integrates with the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools, including Salesforce, Hubspot, and several others. Users can start, monitor, and collaborate on projects within the CRM. For example, with the click of a couple of buttons, the RFP goes from Salesforce to RFPIO and puts compliant content at the finger of frontline teams.
  • Communication apps – Distributed workforces have made communication apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams a modern necessity. RFPIO functions within those apps to keep teams aligned and projects on track.
  • Cloud Storage – RFPIO integrates with Google Drive, Google Cloud, Sharepoint, OneDrive, etc., so all documents can be stored in the cloud.
  • SSO authentication – Users can log into RFPIO through Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, Okta, or OneLogin.
  • Vendor assessment – RFPIO teams with Whistic to seamlessly import third-party vendor security questionnaires.
  • Browser extensions – Stakeholders can access the company content library directly through Chromium Edge or Google Chrome.
  • Productivity – RFPIO users can search, import, and export using productivity tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft Suite applications.
  • Sales enablement – Two-way RFPIO integrations with Seismic and Highspot allow users to import and export collateral, spreadsheets, diagrams, etc. between apps, and improve collaboration between sales, presales, and executives.

Robust project management tools

RFPIO’s management solution alleviates common challenges in meeting deadlines with better workflow assessment, even with distributed workforces. RFPIO Project management capabilities include:

  • Trend analytics – Using insightful at-a-glance dashboards, built-in analytics allows users to analyze time and resources dedicated to an RFP, and track which questions are answered manually or through the content library.
  • Task management – RFPIO breaks projects into bite-sized pieces and helps project managers assign tasks to those who aren’t buried under other responsibilities, and track progress.
  • Review cycles – Multiple stakeholder RFPs should have multiple stakeholder review processes. RFPIO allows companies to set up review cycles on questions, sections, or the entire RFP.

Deliver better proposals with RFP software

If your team is reluctant to respond to even winnable RFPs because of a lack of time and resources, or if your RFP win rate is less than impressive, it’s worth a few minutes to learn more about RFPIO’s time-saving and bid-winning response management software.

Best new product features for 2022

Best new product features for 2022

We all knew that 2021 was going to be a major upgrade to 2020. There was nowhere to go but up. But, wow, it ended up being a huge leap forward for RFPIO and our customers. Here are the 2021 RFPIO new product feature highlights that will make 2022 a banner year for all RFPIO users.

RFPIO® LookUp activated knowledge management

Answer Libraries everywhere came alive when RFPIO® LookUp released in early 2021. The ability to search your Content Library without leaving any of these applications…

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts

…put curated, response-ready knowledge at the fingertips of every RFPIO user with the integration.

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
-Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft   

Autograph accelerated response and increased control

Autograph is a new standalone e-signature module, easily accessed from your RFPIO interface. With Autograph, any RFPIO user can upload and sign documents themselves or prepare and send documents for signature to colleagues or external non-RFPIO user contacts.

The RFPIO dashboard allows you to keep track of document status at a glance and maintain a record of signed documents.

Our unlimited user model means that folks elsewhere at your organization can take advantage of this. For example, contract teams and legal teams could acquire signatures on NDAs and other agreements with Autograph.

I highly recommend you give Autograph a spin in 2022 if you didn’t get a chance to try it in 2021!

Step 1: Open the document for signing

New Projects experience improved usability

We snuck this one in just under the wire in December 2021. The New Projects experience provides major upgrades to usability, including:

  • A Recent Projects bar that shows what you’ve been working on most recently.
  • New functionality to sort and filter the projects list.
  • Freedom to customize the columns displayed on the projects list.
  • The ability to customize the number of items on the page and click the left and right arrows to move through the list.
  • The new My Work option allows subject matter experts to only see questions assigned to them and move through questionnaires more quickly.
  • Customization options allow for a Projects table view that makes the most sense for you.

New Projects makes experienced users more productive and helps new users get up to speed faster.

RFPIO University launched, providing expansive online user training

With every product upgrade comes new best practices on how to get the most out of it without compromising your current experience. RFPIO University is our new platform for communicating those best practices so experienced users can easily stay up to date and new users can target what they need to learn first.

RFPIO University offers Content Management and Project Management learning paths where users can build knowledge incrementally through short online video sessions. It also includes microlearning videos for quick tips on features such as answering questions or assigning authors. The training platform is free to all RFPIO users.

RFP360 acquisition brought RFP management full circle

RFPIO closed the loop on the response management lifecycle with its acquisition of RFP360. The move strengthened RFPIO’s position as the leading provider of response management software, while expanding RFPIO’s offering to include a strategic sourcing solution, bringing to market the most efficient and proactive request for proposal (RFP) solution.

For companies that both issue and respond to RFPs, unifying purchasing and response functionality through a single provider offers many efficiencies.

Most popular customer request? Spelling & grammar check!

The most popular product update request from customers was for the ability to check spelling and grammar within RFPIO. I’m happy to say that through the basic and full rich text editor you can now scan for spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading just got a whole lot easier!

More product update highlights from 2021

Many other updates resulted from your feedback, via the “SUBMIT IDEAS” button in the bottom left of your RFPIO UI. In fact, more than 900 updates came from you! Thank you! This process really emphasizes the value we place on community, and RFPIO wouldn’t be the G2 leader three-years running without our customer support.

Submit Ideas

To learn more about the following 2021 updates, check out my webinar. Some are now application defaults, some can be turned on or off, and some are available for an additional fee. Reach out to your account manager if you have any questions.

  • Guest Response Portal: Simplified user experience for external SMEs who need to respond to a question but don’t have an RFPIO account.
  • Microsoft Word Import/Export Formatting: Table style and list formatting now imports. Checkboxes import and export, too.
  • Content Library Custom Field: Mark as mandatory or optional to quickly categorize and organize content.
  • Content Library Merge Tags: Enhanced to display the value name instead of the name of the tag. For example: [ClientName] would now display the client’s actual name.
  • Rich Text Styles Toolbar: Find and apply styles easier and quicker.
  • Teams as Content Owners and Moderators: Teams can be assigned to content in the Content Library and Content Library with content owner and moderator privileges. There’s an option to indicate if content needs to be reviewed by any team member or all team members.
  • Highspot Integration Update: As an expansion to the Highspot integration, users can now export response packages from RFPIO into Highspot.
  • Export Response Package to Cloud Storage: Responses from a project can now be saved to cloud storage services, allowing you to store the content in folders on Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
  • Whistic Integration: If you respond to a lot of security questionnaires…from their Whistic interface an RFPIO user can select the RFPIO Create Project button to create a mirror questionnaire in RFPIO. Then, users can complete the questionnaire in RFPIO (where they can access all the curated content in their Content Library) and when done, sync the completed questionnaire back to Whistic with the click of a button.

To learn more about all of these updates, please visit the Help Center or contact your account manager. Be sure to stop by RFPIO University for on-demand video sessions on implementing best practices around these features, including for importing, exporting, Merge Tags, and much more!

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

It’s that time of year again… Time to snuggle into our houses, light the fire, find a warm nook, and wait for spring.

If anyone is in the Pacific Northwest like me, you’ve probably been enjoying two solid weeks of rain. If you aren’t in the Pacific Northwest, please don’t rub it in.

As we near the end of the year, we like to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. For our small but mighty content team, that means better understanding our readers—and seeing how we can improve for next year.

In 2021, our blog posts were viewed more than 200,000 times… a 50% increase from the same time period in 2020, when we recorded just under 150,000 views on our posts.

From those 200,000 views, we learned a lot about you, our readers.

First, you love learning, growing, and improving. Almost all of our top blogs offer strategies, templates, and best practices for up-leveling skills, streamlining processes, and improving collaboration.

Second, you’re looking for new ways to collaborate with your team (and your boss). Nearly 50% of our top blogs touch on improved processes, strategies for better collaboration, and tactics for having tough conversations with your boss.

Finally, you are careful readers. The average read time for some of our blogs is upwards of six minutes (industry average for blogs is 2-3 minutes).

With that, let’s get to the good stuff! Here are our 11 most popular blogs from 2021.

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary

Your executive summary needs to persuade your reader (usually an executive) that your product or service is exactly what they need to solve their problem. And you need to do it in just a few pages.

In this blog, our Senior Sales Director, Keith Norrie, shares an example of a beautifully crafted executive summary—based on the executive summary writing guidelines he outlined in the prequel to this blog, “How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing.”

Ready to home your executive summary writing skills? Read our blog(s) to learn how to write an awesome RFP executive summary that blows your reader away.

Read it now

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

​​RFPs are issued as questionnaires of up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content.

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors.

In order to have a chance to be on the shortlist, you have to compose an RFP response. Read this blog to learn how to put your best foot forward, every time.

Read it now

Guide to a great RFP response process

Bottom line: Responding to RFPs is easier if you have some kind of process in place. The better the process, the easier the response.

If you don’t have a process, but want one, how do you get started? If you have a process, but it’s not that great, how do you make it better?

This blog—written by Tara Konlinsky, an APMP-certified Customer Success Manager at RFPIO—answers all those questions and more.

Read it now

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

If you have an RFP process, that’s great news. You’re already a step ahead of the game.

Now you need to think about how to turn your RFP response process into the best one that ever was.

Read this blog for our 5 simple steps to create an RFP response process that others will drool over.

Read it now

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

This year we released our snazzy new e-signature feature—and our readers wanted to learn all about it.

This blog explains what e-signature is, and how you can use Autograph to sign contracts, proposals, and all kinds of other documents.

Read it now

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) to gain insight into current and future trends in proposal management processes across 10 industries.

If you liked this blog, keep your eyes peeled for new research debuting in 2022. 👀

Read it now

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

A proposal cover letter has to be short, sweet, and dense. To write a proposal cover letter with nary a wasted word, you first need to understand its strategic significance in the overall proposal.

In your proposal cover letter, you need to demonstrate you’ve reviewed the RFP requirements and that your solution meets all those requirements—that is key.

Read this blog learn how to write a proposal letter that blows your issuers away.

Read it now

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game. Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. Read this blog to find out.

Read it now

How to build a business case for a full-time RFP content manager

For those of us in the weeds of proposal development, it’s fairly obvious that there’s so much an RFP content manager can do for an organization.

That’s why it can be especially difficult to justify the need for one with upper management.

Read this blog to learn how you can help change mindsets that dedicated RFP content managers aren’t just a “nice-to-have”—they’re a “need-to-have”.

Read it now

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO, I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?”

My answer? Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption. Read this blog to roll through them.

Read it now

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base.

This is a guide to making that happen.

Read it now

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

$4.35 million. That’s the global average cost of a data breach in 2019, according to Statista.

So it’s no wonder that companies invest heavily in cybersecurity. By 2025, it’s expected that annual global spending on cybersecurity products will exceed $460 billion—and this trend is only expected to continue on its upward trajectory.

If you’re storing company information in RFPIO to streamline your RFP responses, I have good news: RFPIO has state-of-the-art security controls to protect your data. Even so, there are still extra things you can do to further protect your information.

Here are 10 things you can do to further strengthen security in RFPIO:

1. Use SSO: A Sweet Security Option

SSO stands for Single Sign-On, but it is also a super sweet security option. RFPIO uses the most widely accepted industry standard, SAML 2.0.

With SSO, RFPIO users use the credentials they already have to sign in. That means they don’t have to remember (yet another) separate user ID and password—and Admins don’t have to take on the responsibility of managing user credentials.

SSO isn’t just convenient. It’s also more secure. When you use SSO, passwords aren’t stored in the browser and there’s a lower risk of a lost or forgotten password. This prevents security gaps that hackers will exploit to gain unauthorized access to the application.

Additionally, SSO allows Admins to manage user activities in real-time, which gives you the extra visibility you need for a tightly run security program.

2. Automate user management with SCIM

SCIM stands for System for Cross-Domain Identity Management. Luckily, it is not as complicated as the 13-syllable name would have you believe.

In a nutshell, SCIM simplifies user management. If SCIM is enabled, users can be added or deleted automatically. It’s as easy as that.

On the one hand, SCIM makes life much easier for Admins. No more manually adding and deleting user accounts.

But it’s also important from a security perspective. With SCIM, user accounts are automatically deleted as soon as employees leave your organization, which means employees won’t have access to sensitive company information after they’ve left.

SCIM happens through SSO and is supported by OneLogin and Microsoft Azure. If your identity provider supports it, I highly recommend implementing SCIM—both for the added convenience and peace of mind.

3. In lieu of SSO, use 2-factor authentication

If your organization doesn’t use SSO, I would recommend you set up 2-factor authentication as an additional layer of security.

If you’ve ever had a code sent to your email or phone, that’s 2-factor authentication. After a user enters their username and password, 2-factor authentication prompts users to enter a valid key or code.

2-factor authentication prevents an unauthorized person from accessing data. Even if a cyber attacker learns the login credentials, they will not be able to access the code for 2-factor authentication.

RFPIO supports 2-factor authentication through Google Authenticator and Duo Mobile.

4. Control access with User Roles

With User Roles (default) and Custom Roles (customized), you can define what users can see and do, and ensure users only have access to the data that’s relevant to them. This is key for security. When you reduce the number of people with access to sensitive data, you minimize the risk of leaks.

RFPIO’s out-of-the-box user roles include Super Admin, Admin, Manager, Team Member, and Project Requester. With Custom Roles (available as an add-on, or included with enterprise package), you can create your own roles that make sense for your organization For example, Content Owner, Reseller Partner, or Project Contributor, but really it can be whatever you want. The world of custom roles is your oyster.

Read our Help Center article to learn more about specific permission levels for the out-of-the-box user roles (RFPIO customers only).

5. Control visibility with collections

Collections is another, more granular way to control access to sensitive data.

While User Roles controls access to projects and organization settings, Collections controls access to content.

When you assign a piece of content to a collection, you can restrict visibility to that collection, either by a user group level (e.g. the sales team) or on an individual level. You can get as granular as you’d like.

For example, you may choose to have a “security” collection and restrict visibility to just the InfoSec team. Or maybe you want a “financials” collection, and want to restrict access to just the finance team and upper management. Here’s a blog with more detail on using collections to organize your content (or scroll to the bottom to watch the webinar).

6. Get really granular with permissions

If you want to get really in the weeds with visibility, you can set privacy settings at the individual object level (e.g. a Q&A pair). Rather than assigning it to a collection, you can set privacy settings to control who can view or edit a specific piece of content.
If there’s a Q&A pair you really only want upper management to have access to, you can do that.

You can also adjust view and edit permissions. For example, maybe there’s a question about a product feature that you really only want the product team to be able to edit, but still want to give your marketing team access to view.

7. Keep up with your audits

With RFPIO, all activities are tracked and logged at different levels (e.g. project level, content level).

Every so often, I’d recommend pulling the Activity Report, which monitors all user activity within the application—including permission changes, user creation, and user deactivation.

For example, if you notice an individual user’s permissions have been changed to have broader access to data that may not be relevant to their role. In response, you can reach out to the person who made the change for more information—and, if necessary, reverse their permission levels to a level more appropriate to their role.

You can also pull the User Login Activity Report. This log includes information about:

  • Who accessed the account,
  • When it was accessed,
  • Where it was accessed (e.g. IP address), and
  • How they logged in (e.g. SSO, username + password, etc.)

Using the User Login Activity Report, Admins can see if the user logged in at odd hours, like on the weekend or very late at night. This could be an indication of unauthorized access that could lead to a data breach.

8. Set up “session timeout”

Avoid the risk of internal attacks by setting up session timeouts that automatically log you out of the application. This is most relevant for organizations working in an office setting.

Here’s the scenario: The VP of Sales leaves their desk for a meeting. Scooby-Doo walks over to the VP of Sales’ desk and downloads a bunch of sensitive financial information from RFPIO, and uses it to wreak havoc. Classic Scooby move.

To prevent this kind of situation from happening, you should set up “session timeout”. The default timeout is 20 minutes, but you can adjust according to your needs.

9. Bring Your Own Key (BYOK)

Set up an extra layer of security with BYOK. RFPIO already encrypts data with our own mechanism, but if you want that added boost… you should consider BYOK.

Basically, BYOK gives you the ability to provide your own encryption key to protect your data—on top of the encryption that RFPIO already uses. This is an added measure for fighting unauthorized access to data.

If you’re an RFPIO customer, learn more about BYOK in the Help Center.

10. Securely share information via Linked Companies

Share company information with partners (e.g. resellers) in such a way that they can only view and use it—but don’t have edit access. This essentially transforms your RFPIO Content Library into an internal knowledge base that your reseller partners can use to respond to RFPs or answer any other questions that may come up during the sales cycle.

You can set this up using Partner Companies. Learn more about how to set up and use Linked Companies in the Help Center (RFPIO customers only).

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

As a sales professional, when I’m closing a deal I don’t want anything getting in the way. The closer I get to a win, the more I get nervous about two things: delays and relying on others. E-signature functionality has been a huge help to minimizing both.

On the delay side, if there’s always been one holdup that makes me question my closing skills more than any other, it’s waiting for a signature. Back in the paper days of yore, it was even worse. Fax machines were already gathering dust by the time I started my sales career in 2007. At that time, we had progressed to a print-fill out-scan-email process that was annoying enough for me, especially for complex contracts that required multiple signatures and initials. Inevitably, a client would miss an initial blank or two and I’d have to chase them down for it. Then I’d have to merge multiple documents to make a complete, legally binding signed contract.

I once had a client on a $150K deal sign one page of a contract but forget to sign another. While waiting for that second signature, other stakeholders entered the picture, held up the deal, and eventually it died…all because I didn’t have e-signature capability.

On the relying-on-others side, this isn’t a selfish play. On the contrary, I depend on my pre-sales, marketing, operations, product development, and customer support teams to help me do my job every day. This play is about streamlining the approval process: I seek to remove as many barriers as possible to simplify what prospects need to do to sign off on a contract. The less I have to rely on them to print, scan, and email, the faster I can get my signatures.

When e-signature hit the scene a few years ago, it was a game changer. Adoption was slow at first, but it’s picked up big time over the last year. The pandemic has helped, in a sense, because the accelerated digital transformation everywhere has increased usage and familiarity with e-signature functionality.

Now that RFPIO has integrated e-signature capabilities across the user experience for all customers, I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. Known as Autograph, there are 4.5 reasons why, as an account executive sales professional, it’s changing the way I work, for the better.

#1 I move faster

Yeah. I know. I was just complaining about delays. Well, I can be the cause of those delays, too. Even prior to Autograph, I wasted cycles toggling back and forth between my e-signature app and whatever I was using to build proposals and contracts (usually either PowerPoint, Word, or PDF).

With Autograph e-signature, I now have capabilities embedded in the same system I’m using to create proposals and contracts, which means no more toggling. From RFPIO I can create the document, add signature requests, send it out, and save the signed version all in the same application. From the moment I have verbal assent on a deal, I can spin up a proposal or contract in a matter of minutes.

The big bonus with it being in RFPIO is that everyone in the organization can have access at no extra costs.* And I’m not just saying that because I happen to work for the app creator. RFPIO’s unlimited user licenses means everyone can have access, and it’s now included as a standard feature.* In addition to not needing to toggle to and fro with your e-signature app, you don’t have to pay for it, either.

#2 I’m more efficient

It’s about more than just working fast. It’s also about having more control over the whole sales lifecycle. Like any other sales professional, I have a quota or goal that I aim to achieve every month, quarter, and year. Autograph enhances the control I was already gaining with RFPIOs other features. Now I can add e-signature to my ability to manage documents, create content, access answers in near real time, and collaborate with my teammates in sales enablement and proposal development.

One of the greatest efficiencies is with contracts that need signatures from multiple parties. With Autograph, I can set a signing order, include personalized private messages to each signer, set a deadline, and prompt reminder emails. Signers will be invited via email to review the document and add their signatures and initials.

#3 I have more visibility

No deal exists in a vacuum. Quota calls, and I need to keep an active pipeline. There’s a fine line between managing multiple deals and spreading yourself too thin. At any one time, I may have two or three contracts out for signatures. The most important deal is always the one I’m currently working, so it was frustrating and distracting to have to keep tabs on contracts that were awaiting signatures on other deals.

Autograph has a dashboard that helps me track all my contracts, including timestamps, what’s been signed, who still needs to respond to the signing order, and all other actions taken with the document. The dashboard is my window into an organized record of all my signed documents, all of which are also stored in RFPIO and only accessible by me. There is no limit to how many documents I save, and no one else can see the documents without my permission.

#4 I minimize my tech stack

Don’t get me wrong. I love my technology. The fact that I can do what I do from almost anywhere still sometimes astonishes me. But like the inevitable course of a TikTok challenge going too far, there can be too much of a good thing.

I’m of the school of productivity through simplicity and taking the straight line from point A to point B. In the face of Nancy Nardin’s overwhelming 2021 SalesTech Vendor Landscape, I’m seeking to consolidate for more efficiency, automation, and of course, ROI. RFPIO has my back: First, by introducing Autograph on top of another new product this year, RFPIO® LookUp; second, by integrating with other applications I already have in my sales stack. From Salesforce to Microsoft Teams to Google Chrome, I have my sales tech stack dialed in for optimal productivity.

#4.5 Get more colleagues involved

This is only 4.5 because, while the byproduct is still something I love, it also comes with the luxury of working for the company that built Autograph: We all use it already. For you, the benefit is that Autograph exposes RFPIO to other users in your organization who may not have experienced it yet. If you’ve been trying to get any engineers or finance team members—maybe even other sales teams—in your organization to start using RFPIO because it’ll make your life easier, then Autograph is the perfect lure.

I’m one of many who love it

Beyond the sales benefits, I’m hearing a lot of love for Autograph from customers on proposal, human resources, and operations teams. Proposal managers are turning around proposal components such as cover letters, legal documents, NDAs, and disclosures faster than ever. HR is incorporating Autograph into onboarding to make the process easier for administrators and new hires. Operational subject matter experts are realizing efficiencies in utilizing Autograph for vendor/supplier agreement contract management.

Autograph is a no-brainer. Free and ready to go if you’re a current RFPIO customer.* Why not try it? Log in. Navigate to Autograph on the left. Upload a doc. Set a signing order. Send it externally or internally. NEXT!

Request a demo and ask to see how Autograph works, or check out a cool GIF demo of Autograph in action. If you’re already an RFPIO customer, view our Help Center article for detailed instructions on using Autograph.

*The inclusion of the free Autograph tool depends on your RFPIO package. If you currently don’t have Autograph, but want it, please reach out to your Account Manager.

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Give a person a fish, they’ll eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Surprise all the end users of your new software purchase with a fishing trip and they’ll wonder, “Do I have to do this, and how do I get off this boat?”

As a proposal manager with a shiny new RFPIO lure guaranteed to attract every big fish you can reach with a cast, sometimes it feels like you’re stranded on dry land with a map to the fishing hole but no way to get there.

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke. Change management is a sophisticated discipline that examines the processes behind organizational transformation. It’s way too deep a rabbit hole to fall into here, other than to say that 99 out of 100 proposal managers I work with during RFPIO onboarding don’t have any specific experience in change management or software deployment. Which can make the prospect of convincing end users that their jobs and lives will improve with RFPIO somewhat daunting.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO — whether it’s a proposal manager, sales manager, or IT specialist — I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?” Now we have a bite-sized challenge we can overcome, rather than an amorphous source of anxiety such as “change management.”

My response to the question, “How do I set myself up for success?” is “Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption.” Let’s roll through them.

#1: Get executive buy-in

Trying to implement any change without executive buy-in is akin to growing a garden without any seeds. The need and desire may be there, but you just don’t have anything to get started. So take that need and desire and use it to build a business case for adding RFPIO to your sales technology stack.

This all has to happen before deployment even appears on the horizon. Gaining and maintaining buy-in from managers and executive sponsors will be critical to making end users more receptive to your excitement and the possible benefits. According to Steve Silver at Forrester, a leading global research and advisory firm, “Every business case must have an executive to champion the investment.”

To build the business case, Silver advises to call out timing of adding RFPIO (i.e., answer, “Why now?”), identify risks and dependencies (key to which he includes this nugget, “Tie the consequences of not using the technology to failure to meet specific goals that a sales organization has committed to attaining”), and clarify budget allocation and source of funding.

After you secure executive buy-in for the purchase, you’ll need to keep them engaged with monthly or quarterly status updates on implementation and RFPIO benefits. It’s important to obtain and maintain their endorsement so that they continue to encourage their teams to use RFPIO.

Here’s an email template of what one of the initial updates might look like.

SUBJECT: RFPIO has already accelerated response time by 40%

Hi [EXECUTIVE NAME],

We’re off and running with RFPIO, and I wanted to give you a quick update on how it’s going:

    • [X#] of end users are now using RFPIO
    • We have used it to respond to [X#] of RFPs this month
    • Compared to the same month last year, we responded 40% faster to RFPs
    • Of the RFPs submitted this month, we know we won [X#] at a valuation of [$X]

End users are picking it up quickly: “It takes about 10-30 minutes to train the client-facing teams on how to search for information in RFPIO.”

As we continue to add content to the Content Library, we expect to see an even greater leap in proposal quality, greater usage of Auto Respond functionality, and more efficient workflows.

I’ll send another update next month, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#2: Make sure you have bandwidth

Before you kick off your RFPIO implementation, make sure you have an accurate expectation of the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to the project. It will require some extra bandwidth. On average, expect to spend about five hours per week for the first three to six months.

Some RFPIO admins prefer to assign their regular duties to another team member so they can “cram” on RFPIO. They’ll spend 15-25 hours per week to focus solely on the rollout and learn RFPIO as quickly as possible. Then they’re able to pare back to a few hours a week. You’ll need to determine which method works best for your team and goals.

As far as what you’ll be doing with that time, here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • Deployment processes: From generating excitement to coordinating with IT, and from amassing content to scheduling training, you need to balance your daily workflow and responsibilities with what’s expected of you during deployment. This will be a short-term issue. While we’ll be there to lend you support, you need to make sure your bandwidth can handle being the point person on this project.
  • Ongoing “office hours”: End users will have questions, especially at the outset. And every time there’s a new hire in sales or pre-sales or proposals or customer support you’ll need to make sure they’re trained and able to thrive in RFPIO. Plus, you’ll want to encourage feedback, negative and positive, to adapt your usage, increase functionality, or add integrations in the future.
  • Driving response management processes: Any tool is only as good as the processes behind using it. Even a hammer has to be swung accurately to hit the head of a nail. A huge benefit to AI-enabled tools like RFPIO is that it will be able to automate most of your existing manual processes. You will still need to work behind the scenes to execute schedules, push collaboration buttons, and drive deadline management. In other words, the robot can swing the hammer as long as you put the hammer in its robotic appendage.
  • Auditing content: Do a full content audit to make sure you are starting off with a cohesive, succinct Content Library. Watch this webinar to learn more about completing a content audit in RFPIO, or follow these four steps to set your Content Library up for success:

#3: Admin team, assemble!

Make sure to recruit admin team members from each department that needs to be involved, and has the bandwidth to help with implementation, rollout, and RFPIO day-to-day operations. Sometimes admin teams are made up of only one or two people, and that’s okay, too. Whatever the makeup, they will in turn be responsible for evangelizing RFPIO, reinforcing the value message from executive sponsorship, and liaising with you to provide team-specific training for end users in their department.

For larger, global organizations, the admin team will also be responsible for figuring out a rollout plan. They’ll determine which departments get onboarded first, taking into consideration metrics such as proposal volume, knowledge sprawl or content silos, and collaboration challenges. They’ll also develop a repeatable onboarding process that can be turnkey for new hires or other new end users.

This team will continue to exist beyond the initial deployment of RFPIO. Their meeting cadence will likely be weekly at first, but that cadence will slow down to monthly as you meet a critical mass of end users.

The admin team will also create and monitor milestones that mark success and check in regularly with leadership to report on the milestones. It will be responsible for communicating RFPIO’s value to leadership and end users, promoting transparency for feedback and user expectations, and overseeing the strategy for #4…

#4: Generate excitement through an “awareness campaign”

Start generating excitement, even if you’re still finalizing the purchase. Involving your power users during the early stages of launch will increase the likelihood that they’ll use new software by 55%.

You can do this by setting up an internal email campaign. In addition to informing end users what’s coming, this will also get the organization used to hearing from you about RFPIO training and product updates. Ultimately, you want to provide clear concise answers to the following questions that are common to end users:

  1. Why do we have RFPIO? (e.g., “To automate manual response processes, streamline content management and access, and create higher quality proposals.”)
  2. Why is RFPIO exciting for me? (e.g., for a sales end-user, “Locate answers to prospect questions in near real-time based on updated content that’s searchable from the application you’re already working in.”)
  3. How will it help me do my job better? (e.g., for pre-sales end-user, “Spend more time creating innovative solutions instead of answering the same questions over and over.”)
  4. When will I be trained on RFPIO? (e.g., “Go-live for RFPIO is XX/XX/20XX. Your department is scheduled to be trained the week prior to that go-live date.”

One of the first couple of emails should come from the executive sponsor (some proposal managers like to send a short teaser about an impending big announcement about changing the game for sales enablement). It will validate the addition of RFPIO to your sales tech stack while communicating a high-level value proposition of improvements in productivity, efficiency, and outcomes. It will also set the expectation of cooperation and collaboration among end users to plow the road for your deployment.

Make each email short and informative. Respect your readers’ time. Include links for more information for end users who choose to learn more. Set up the next step in the process. Here’s an example of an announcement email to get you started.

SUBJECT: Announcement: Help with sales response and content is on the way!

Hi everyone,
I’m excited to announce that we are adding RFPIO — one of the best AI-powered sales enablement solutions available today — to your toolbox in the next few weeks. RFPIO will save us a bunch of time, allow us to focus on improving response and proposal quality, unify all sales content, and improve how we collaborate.

You’ll receive more information about RFPIO from me or your manager as we finalize the rollout plan. I’ll also schedule you for a quick training so you can hit the ground running (no worries, RFPIO is super intuitive and will integrate with other apps you’re already using!).

Meanwhile, learn more about how RFPIO will make life easier and more productive:

Let me know if you have any questions. You’ll be hearing from me again soon!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#5: Train yourself

You’re the tip of the spear on this project. No matter how much help you have from your admin team, executive sponsor, IT, or evangelized end-user base, you’re going to be the person handling initial questions. Even when you tell everyone that they’re free to create a help ticket of their own with RFPIO, they’re going to ask you first.

Best to be prepared.

During onboarding, we’ll take you through extensive training until you feel comfortable with the tool. We’ll also be available when something arises that stumps you. But you can also refer to the following for help, too:

  • RFPIO Help Center (RFPIO customers only): Access an RFPIO self-guided tour and New User Training Checklist as well as expert insight into importing your first documents, organizing your Content Library, and more.
  • New User Training ChecklistFollow this checklist to get the most out of your RFPIO experience. Each step includes links to Help Center articles to set you up for success.
  • RFPIO University (RFPIO customers only): Watch video training modules on project management, content management, and other powerful capabilities such as user management and Auto Respond.
  • Customer webinars: Sign up for the next live webinar or dig into the on-demand archive of recent webinars for further instruction, product updates, and response management best practices.

#6: Schedule training by role

RFPIO is an intuitive tool. Even so, we have your back when it comes to user adoption. Institutionally, we have prioritized it. You’ll recognize our efforts in user experience upgrades, the new learning management system (LMS) RFPIO University mentioned above, and certification events designed to help you train end users.

Learning how to use RFPIO is relatively simple. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist at Microsoft, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”

Sales users are savvy. They can pick it up in an hour-long training. You should follow up with shorter, recurring training sessions to make sure they’re really using it, understand its benefits, and feel comfortable asking for help, if necessary. Respect end users’ time by training them only on what they need to know.

Again, manager buy-in is crucial here. Work closely with sales managers to make sure they fully comprehend the opportunity offered by RFPIO. They will help you overcome any pushback from sales end users, who may hesitate at the request to disrupt their workflow for a training, no matter how short and helpful it may be. They will also help ensure their team is using the tool consistently.

#7: Monitor, collect feedback, adapt

The push for greater user adoption is never complete, but it can most certainly be less painful and onerous. The good news is that user-adoption pushback fades as win rates increase.

After the rush of your initial rollout, you’ll be re-investing some of the time you used to waste on all the manual tasks of building proposals and chasing down content and subject matter experts into RFPIO administration. Beyond driving your underlying processes of project, content, and user management, you’ll also be communicating regularly with your admin team and executive sponsor.

RFPIO makes it easy to report on usage because every action is captured within the tool and spun into insight for your desired output. However, you’ll want to gather anecdotal input as well. Speaking to end users and their managers about what’s working and what’s still a struggle with regard to RFPIO or your response management strategy will help you adapt to future needs.

Depending on the size of your organization, you can expect to see value from using RFPIO 90 days to six months after implementation. You may see value in as few as 35 days if you push it, but be wary of setting unrealistic expectations that can circle back around to sabotage the overall adoption.

Want to hear from someone other than RFPIO? See how Hyland Software managed user adoption: “By making sure RFPIO is something everyone can use… everyone is using it. User adoption has been outstanding.”

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know they tend to be about 80-85% boilerplate content. The remaining 15-20% is where you really have the freedom to adapt your proposal to a client’s specific needs.

This skewed structure means you might spend 80-85% of your time responding to repeat questions. Subject matter experts (SMEs) could spend up to 30% of time they didn’t have to spare responding to RFPs. Valuable time is spent on repetitive tasks. Information and departmental silos keep teams from reaching their fullest revenue-generating potential as a collaborative unit.

But with RFP automation, the story changes. Automating the RFP response process means less repetitive labor, more time for other high-priority tasks—and the chance to make each RFP you submit pack a bigger punch.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is RFP automation?

RFP automation is a cloud-based B2B sales technology that helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. As a result of these time savings, team members are able to return to other high-priority tasks.

But let’s take a step back.

Billions of years ago (in the late 2000s), marketing automation caused an important shift in email marketing. Automation allowed marketers to achieve more as a team and make a bigger impact on revenue.

Over the past few years, the proposal management industry experienced the same transformative effect with RFP automation.

It’s a collective effort to respond to an RFP, with involvement from multiple departments—sales, marketing, legal, finance, product, compliance, IT—and the list goes on. Often (but not always) there is a dedicated proposal manager directing these projects to keep everyone moving toward the same target…a timely, quality RFP response.

In the olden days, an RFP would come in. The proposal manager would “shred” it and assign questions to an SME—the all too familiar questions the SME had answered many times before on other proposals.

The SME then would spend too much time looking through folders and documents to copy and paste previous responses. There would be little time to ensure quality control.

With RFP automation, an SME only has to answer a question once, and then it’s captured in a Content Library. The proposal manager can then reference the Content Library to populate the responses with relevant content. SME involvement consists only of oversight, making sure the content is accurate and optimized.

Automation helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. Time savings allow team members to return to other high-priority tasks. Some of your most valuable and costly resources are involved in RFP responses. If you respond to 100 RFPs in a year, this really adds up. To calculate your RFP automation cost savings, check out our ROI calculator.

How do you automate an RFP response?

Automating an RFP response comes down to two main things: Artificial intelligence and content. AI-enabled RFP automation technology uses AI to match existing content with new incoming RFP questions. The more content you have, the more accurate the result.

When we set out to build a consolidated (and better) solution for RFP response management back in 2015, over and over we heard that responders wanted a platform that would help them improve collaboration and automate workflows.

A few RFP automation solutions existed, but they weren’t easy to use. And these solutions didn’t integrate with systems that teams were already using across an organization, including CRMs like Salesforce, communication tools like Slack, or cloud storage like Google Drive. With more than 8,000 solutions in the marketing technology landscape, the last thing an organization needs is a solution that doesn’t play nice with other technology its stack. 

marketing technology landscape

To make sure we built a solution for proper RFP automation, we focused on three aspects:

  • Artificial intelligence: (AI) is changing the way we all work, including how proposal management teams “shred” their RFPs. It’s easier to break up relevant sections, auto-identify response content, and assign questions to subject matter experts.
  • Integrations: Our integrations keep all team members working in their preferred tools. Salespeople don’t want to leave their CRM to respond to RFPs and they no longer have to. SMEs are unreachable by email, but they’ll engage through Slack.
  • Content management: The Content Library is the content management hub—not only for RFPs, but for all company information. Anyone has access to the latest and greatest content, which can be easily searched, selected, and inserted into a variety of business documents…even emails.

Benefits of RFP automation

Achieving more with RFP automation also means responding to more RFPs. Organizations that use RFP software respond to 43% more RFPs per year, on average. Because the time-savings realized from automation can be re-invested to maintain or improve response quality, imagine what this scenario, based on data from our research, would do to your revenue forecast:

  • Prior to RFP automation, let’s say you responded to an average of about 50 RFPs every year.
  • Each RFP win equals, on average, $1-3 million.
  • Add 43% more responses per year with RFP software.
  • At an industry average of 45% win rate, that equates to 22.5 more wins per year.

In this scenario, your revenue forecast from RFPs could increase upwards of $22.5 million to $67.5 million in a year!

Without automation, response management teams can only dream of increasing RFP responses, let alone revenue forecasts. They respond to RFPs in a reactive state, which, of course, is not the way to produce a quality deliverable for the prospect.

Saving time through efficient processes turns into extra hours to consider viable business opportunities—perhaps even breaking into new markets. RFP automation gives your team the space to establish a proactive process, where technology handles much of the heavy lifting. Team members are brought in to use their strengths to strengthen the content—and the chances of winning the deal.

RFP automation: Is it a good AI use case?

Someone has to say it. Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame wasn’t a scientist. He was a tinkerer who built Rube Goldberg machines. Everything from his dog Einstein’s automatic feeder to the Delorean’s lightning rod was an overly complex chain-reaction contraption. Until he invented the Flux Capacitor. That was the real science that made time travel possible.

How is Doc Brown’s evolution from tinkerer to scientist relevant to automation? In the case of responding to RFPs, you cannot simply automate all of the manual tasks that go into a response. If you do that, then you’ll end up with an RFP Rube Goldberg machine that may not be as reliable as the manual processes you’re trying to eliminate. But in situations where AI is appropriate? That’s the real science that makes automation possible.

As promising as AI is, it’s still just plain hard. Projects are costly, unwieldy, and difficult to complete. Only 53% of AI projects make it into production, and those that do are only profitable about 60% of the time.

RFP automation best practices

In the case of RFPIO’s Auto Respond functionality, AI-enabled automation:

Populates the “first pass” of responses of an entire project or section of a project References Content Library records in conjunction with a series of filters and the ranking of metadata Uses a recommendation algorithm to prioritize and rank the results Allows results previews so users can decide whether or not to use the answers

To do this, AI operations factor in, among other things:

  • Access to the Content Library content by user
  • Similar questions or alternate questions in the Content Library
  • Answer Type/Compatibility
  • Content-to-search match percentage
  • Star rating (content quality)
  • Used count (how often the content is used)
  • Last used date
  • Last updated date
  • Exact word/phrase match

When effectively executed, AI enables RFP automation because the solution has been built by qualified data scientists, extensively tested, based on accurate data models, and designed to scale. It’s also important to note that AI isn’t meant to be used to replace humans; it’s intended to enhance us.

The secret to RFP automation success: Organized content

Even artificial intelligence needs a brain. Don’t worry. This isn’t a Skynet scenario. For RFP automation, the brain is your content library. More specifically, in RFPIO this is known as the Content Library.

With a robust, well-maintained Content Library as a resource, your AI can grow in sophistication from machine learning. Users will be able to filter at higher levels, access the cleanest Q&A pairs, and move faster through the response process. Additionally, time saved from RFP automation can be re-invested into developing better content and curating existing content to improve its quality.

A long-term benefit of RFP automation is increased visibility into which content is most popular and where you have gaps. Data from these insights will be valuable in your content strategy moving forward.

So through RFP automation using a reliable Content Library you get to create better content and find time to continuously organize content, all while responding to more RFPs. That sounds like a profitable use case for AI.

Are you ready to see if RFP automation is right for you? Schedule a demo to find out.

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Blast! Just as I’m about to write this article about RFPIO® LookUp—a search portal that transforms your RFPIO Content Library into an instantly accessible company knowledge base—the discovery of a new portal to a 5th dimension tries to steal my thunder. Lucky for me, I can confirm that the RFPIO® LookUp portal is real. No need to fire up the Large Hadron Collider.

RFPIO® LookUp is a game-changer for organizational knowledge base integration. The subscription unlocks subject matter expertise from your RFPIO Content Library and makes it available to everyone in your organization, from almost anywhere they work. This knowledge base solution includes compatibility with all of the following:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts

With all of these applications, as soon as your RFPIO® LookUp subscription is live you’ll see a search bar and results pane where you can immediately access content without having to switch between applications. There are no limits on user licenses—the LookUp subscription can be added to your RFPIO package without worrying about a per-user cost.

Until now, RFPIO® LookUp has only been available as a Chrome extension. Now that it’s available to use almost anywhere, your entire organization can take advantage of the curated, brand-approved expertise that you’ve amassed for use on requests for proposal (RFPs), security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), requests for information (RFIs), and requests for quote (RFQs).

Spread the content wealth across teams

For proposal managers and teams, RFPIO® LookUp eliminates you being the bottleneck between proposal-ready content and the sales, support, and marketing teams that rely on you to provide it. It also enables you to:

  • Consolidate, organize, and moderate company knowledge, and make it easily accessible for teams across your organization
  • Complete online questionnaires faster
  • Quickly respond to short questionnaires (e.g. RFIs, requirements questionnaires) in Microsoft Word or Excel
  • Leverage knowledge stored in the RFPIO Content Library to create sales proposals, SOWs, and presentations in Microsoft Office

We found that 81% of proposal managers with RFP software agree that dynamic content libraries save time, and RFPIO® LookUp definitely makes any Content Library dynamic.

For sales, RFPIO® LookUp acts as an on-demand, real-time SME that lifts the burden of chasing down answers to prospect and customer inquiries. It enables all sales team members to:

  • Quickly access the most up-to-date and accurate company information from where you’re already working, including Salesforce, SalesLoft, Google Docs, and any web-based software.
  • Respond to prospect and customer questions directly from Outlook, Gmail, or any web-based email platform
  • Streamline sales proposal and slide deck creation in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Sales representatives can improve response time, which will lead to faster conversions and more revenue. They can then also spend less time wandering around the company wiki and more time nurturing relationships with prospects and clients.

For customer service and technical support teams, RFPIO® LookUp enables real-time access into corporate expertise so they can seamlessly respond to support requests.

For marketing and other content creators, RFPIO® LookUp provides access to the most up-to-date product, solution, pricing, and other company information that’s been curated by SMEs. This allows marketing teams to focus on efficiently creating content and running campaigns instead of conducting research and monopolizing time and resources of other teams.

Watch proposal quality rise

We’re still in the early days of this new RFPIO® LookUp portal, but we’re already hearing some positive feedback from organizations using it as a shortcut to their company knowledge base. Vicki Griesinger—Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft—said, “We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

-Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft

And Assistant VP of Content at Genpact, Shashi Kumar, said, “With RFPIO® LookUp, bid managers have immediate access to pre-approved content they can easily add to their proposals. As a result, proposal quality has increased dramatically.

If you already use RFPIO as your response management platform, then it’s extremely simple to add RFPIO® LookUp as a knowledge management solution. Simply reach out to Tina (tina@rfpio.com), and she’ll connect you with your account manager to get the ball rolling. If RFPIO® LookUp is the knowledge base integration portal you’ve been looking for to put you over the hump on your RFP software decision, then schedule a demo today.

If the portal to a 5th dimension is what you’ve been looking for, then maybe RFPIO® LookUp can help you manage your research on dark matter and gravitational waves. We’re always happy to help develop a deeper understanding of cosmological history!

Still need more information? Learn more about RFPIO® LookUp here.

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

When I first started responding to RFPs, few people were paying attention to RFP metrics. Sure, there were definitely some trailblazers who were measuring performance, analyzing wins and losses, and optimizing efficiency… but I certainly wasn’t one of them. For me, responding to RFPs was less of a process than a mad scramble to the deadline.

Since then, my approach to RFP response has evolved. Admittedly, this is likely aided by co-founding a company that streamlines the response process via automation and analytics. This article will focus on the latter.

If you do it right, data-driven management can help sales teams sell smarter. But it can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.

By the end of this article, you will understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking—and how to use these metrics to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

RFP metrics overview

Responding to RFPs can be an expensive undertaking. When you’re working with limited time and resources, you need to be strategic about which projects you take on. Improving your odds of a win starts by determining whether you’re a good fit, and identifying risk factors early so you can avoid surprises and plan for success.

Don’t let dollar signs, commas, and zeros distract you from what’s possible. Go for that big deal, but don’t do it just because of the logo or the dollar value. Do it because the data tells you, “You have a great shot at winning!”

For answers about your future, look to the past. Use data from past wins, losses, and incompletes to determine whether a project is worth pursuing. When you capture an RFx and upload it as a new project to RFPIO, the system will evaluate past projects for comparison and provide a dashboard that gives you an idea of what to expect.

Here’s a small taste of some of the data points that will help you enhance efficiency and gain new insights throughout your response process:

Project Type: Segment your RFP data according to project type. If you respond to RFPs, Security Questionnaires, and DDQs, then you can set each of those as a project type so you’ll be able to compare apples to apples. You can also segment based on industry, size, geo, and more.

Segment your RFP data according to project type
Focus on Wins: How many similar past projects have you won? Lost? Understanding what kinds of projects have been submitted and won helps you focus your efforts only on projects you’re most likely to win moving forward.

Focus on RFPs you're likely to win
Project Scope: Identity total volume of work required to complete the project.

Identify project scope before starting any RFP
Time to Completion: See the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past projects. In a recent survey, we found that 57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process to save time.

Understand the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past RFPs.
Resource Needs: Examine content that may need to be created or moderated. Identify primary authors and moderators from past projects.

Identify primary authors from past RFPs.
Content Needed: Understand what kinds of questions are being asked, and whether you have that information on hand.

Clearly understand the content available in the library
Taken in isolation, each of those data points means very little. Homing in on a single datapoint is just like trying to ride a bike with just the wheels—you can’t get anywhere without the pedal, seat, and handlebar.

Instead, it’s best to approach RFP metrics in context of the greater RFP response process. The trick is learning how to apply insights from each individual data point in a way that enhances efficiency and reduces risk.

To make this easier on you, this blog breaks down the RFP metrics you should be paying attention to according to how they fit into the RFP response process:

  • RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions
  • RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization
  • RFP metrics for ongoing optimization

By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking and how to track them.

RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions

The first step of the RFP response process is figuring out whether an RFP is a good fit. Is this RFP worth the time and resources it’s going to take to complete?

In making your fit analysis, you need to be selective. You don’t want to waste time and resources on an RFP you’re probably not going to win. But you also don’t want to walk away from a potential opportunity, and leave money on the table.

RFP metric #1: Determining whether you’re a fit

While this isn’t *technically* a metric, decomposing the RFP to determine whether you’re a fit is extremely important to the bid/no-bid decision making process, and worth mentioning here.

Before you spend anytime answering a single question, the first thing you’re going to want to do is determine whether your solution is in line with the key requirements. Do a quick scan to see if anything pops out at you.

What problem is the issuer looking to solve? What are the features and functionalities on their “must-have” and “should-have” list?

This is also a great way to determine whether you’re dealing with a wired RFP, where an incumbent exists and the issuer is just going through the motions. If there are a considerable number of requirements that seem irrelevant or very far off base, that’s a good sign the issuer isn’t interested and the RFP might not be a good use of your time.

If your solution isn’t in-line with the issuer’s needs… go ahead and throw it on the “thanks, but no thanks” pile.

Remember: Your time is valuable. Don’t spend it on proposals you’re not likely to win.

Even if you are a good fit, you may still decide it’s a no-go due to other priorities, deadlines, and resource commitments.

If you do find you’re regularly passing up potential opportunities due to bandwidth, you might consider a proposal automation solution. According to a recent survey, organizations using RFP-specific technology submit nearly 50% more RFPs than those who don’t.

RFP metric #2: Do your homework on the RFP issuer

Yes, okay, we’re two for two for metrics that aren’t technically metrics. But you’re going to want to do a background check on the RFP issuer before you do a single iota of work. Nothing is worse than putting the final touches on an RFP, only to discover you already submitted a near-identical RFP two years ago.

Once you’ve determined the decomposition of data is a fit, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer:

  • Has this company previously issued RFPs?
  • If yes, did you win? Were you short-listed?

If you did submit an RFP for this particular company before—and you lost—it might not be worth your time. But if you were short-listed, and the company ended up going with another vendor, it could indicate that they weren’t happy with the other vendor’s solution… and this might be your chance to shine.

If you have submitted an RFP for this particular company before, pull that old RFP from the archives, and examine it with a critical eye. What did you do well? What can be improved? You don’t always get a second chance to demonstrate your competitive advantage—don’t let this opportunity slip you by.

RFP metric #3: Analyzing past wins based on company profiles

Compare company size, project value, and vertical to your typical customer profile. If you usually work with enterprise companies, and the RFP you’ve just received is from a startup, your solution might not be a good fit.

Save yourself some time in the future by tracking these data points as you go along. Each time you receive a new RFP, make a note of the parameters you want to track. As a starting point, I would suggest tracking*:

  • Vertical
  • Company Size
  • Product Line
  • Project Type*
  • Project Stage*
  • Number of Questions*
  • Project Value*

*RFPIO tracks project type, stage, number of questions, and project value by default. You can track vertical, company size, and product link by creating a custom field.

Be diligent about tracking each parameter whenever you receive a new RFP. Over time, you’ll see how well you perform for each of your chosen parameters.

If you’re using RFPIO, you’ll get a performance snapshot each time you import a new project, including project status (e.g. won, lost), time spent, and Content Library usage (i.e. how many of the questions were answered using Auto Respond).

With RFPIO, you'll see a performance snapshot each time you import a new project.

RFP metric #4: Tracking your average RFP response rate

Your average RFP response rate is a function of the number of outgoing RFPs divided by the number of incoming RFPs.

Average RFP Response Rate = # Outgoing RFPs / # Incoming RFPs

There is no rule of thumb for what your average RFP response rate should be. For some companies, an 80% response rate is too low; for others, a 30% response rate is too high.

One thing that can be said for certain is that if every RFP that comes in is being responded to, something is off. It means you’re not qualifying what’s coming in. By going after everything, you end up wasting time and effort on deals you’re probably not going to win.

You can adjust your average RFP response rate as you go along. If your win rate is astronomical, it could be a sign that you want to start responding to more RFPs (and vice versa).

On the flip side, if you’re responding to 50% of RFPs, and your win rate is abysmal, it could be a sign you need to better qualify the deals you’re going after.

RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization

Once you’ve decided this RFP is a go, it’s time to get to work. That means building out your team, keeping your project on track, and submitting a polished final product.

RFP metric #5: Determining Workload

Before you do anything, check the project size (i.e. number of questions) and the due date. This will give you a general idea of how much work you’ll have to do based on past performance.

After that, you can start assigning work out to your team. As you’re choosing SMEs, the most important metric to track is current assigned workload. If one of your SMEs has four projects due by the end of next week and you’re adding another one, you’re just asking for trouble. That’s the time you proactively find an alternate SME.

If you’re using RFPIO, you can check current SME workload right in the application. The system will tell you how much work is assigned to which SMEs, what the workload looks like, and if there is any overload.

If you’re not using proposal management software, you can also keep track of SME workload using spreadsheets; you’ll just have to make time to keep your spreadsheet up to date.

RFP metric #6: Readability Score

If a proposal is difficult to understand, it increases the cost for bidders during the procurement process. Confusion leads to delays. Delays drive up costs. And everyone loses.

Most people read at a 10th grade level. Make life easy for your buyers by writing at that same level. Avoid delays by calculating readability as content is being added, using an editing tool like the Hemingway App or the Flesch reading ease test.

RFP metric #7: Probability of Win Score (PWIN)

Here’s where you take an honest look at your work so far and ask yourself: How can I increase my odds of winning?

A PWIN (Probably of Win) score is calculated based on the answers to a variety of questions designed to best determine how well the company’s team, experience, and contacts match those required for the opportunity. The higher the score, the better chances of winning the contract will be.

Ask questions like:

  • How does the language compare to previous projects? Is it accurate, positive? Does it align with winning RFPs from the past?
  • Have you answered all the questions? Have you met all the required conditions?
  • How often do you answer in the affirmative vs. negative?

Be honest with yourself. Have you said “no” to a certain percentage of must-have or should-have requirements? Are you qualifying too much, or agreeing to build too many features? It might not be worth the final proofing and polishing to primp your proposal to perfection.

Just because you’ve spent a lot of time getting your proposal this far, it doesn’t mean you need to spend even more time getting it over the finish line. Your time is valuable. It’s okay to throw in the towel.

Regardless of whether you decide to submit the proposal, make note of the requirements you’re missing, and coordinate with your product management team to get them into the roadmap.

RFP metrics for improving win rate and optimizing efficiency

You should constantly be looking for opportunities to optimize efficiency and improve win rate. Tracking metrics and analyzing the data can help you do that.

RFP metric #8: Identify Content Gaps

Auditing your Content Library is an art unto itself. From an RFP metrics perspective, RFPIO includes an insights tool that helps you identify content gaps, content that needs to be updated, and content that needs to be created.

What terms are being used in search? What’s being found? What’s not being found? Let’s say a security product company is seeing a lot of requests for “zero trust” but no content exists because it’s new terminology that has quickly become industry norm.

The insight tool alerts content owners that content needs to include “zero trust” in order to stay relevant—and could provide insight to leadership and product teams on where the market is headed.

Sometimes you just need new content in your library. For example, if a lot of people are looking for information about “outages” (i.e., what has been your longest outage?), but turning up empty-handed, it might be a good idea to reach out to your product team to let them know new content is needed.

RFP metric #9: Determine content library health

To determine how healthy your content library is, see what percentage of RFPs can be completed with auto-respond, as opposed to manually creating answers from scratch. With a well-curated Content Library, 40-80% auto-response is realistic. 30-40% of content exists but needs editing. 20-30% needs to be brand new.

If your auto-respond is hovering below 40-50%, that’s a good sign you’re in need of a content audit. If this sounds like you, check out our guide on how to conduct a content audit in 3 steps.

4-Step RFP Content Audit

Future impact

There’s more to discover after delivering a project. Before you even know if you won or lost, you can start mitigating future risk based on what you learned during this project.

How long did it take (longer/shorter than average)? How many deadlines were missed? How much content was re-used? How much content was missing? Set up a feedback mechanism to share these findings with content owners and SMEs so you can continue to improve knowledge management and the response process.

Time matters

Our success metric is not to have users spend more time in our platform. This is not social media. We want users to be able to work responses faster and more effectively than they’ve ever thought possible. Which brings me to the last RFP metric I want to mention here: how well you’re using your team’s time.

Generate an Application Usage Report to gain insight into which modules (Project, Content Library, etc.) your users spent their time. Compare that time spent against past similar projects. Did you save the team time? Did it take longer than average? From here, you can dig into why and start minimizing risk for the next proposal.

Gain insight into which modules your users spend their time
Schedule a demo today to see how to use some of the RFP metrics mentioned in this article to improve proposal management.

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) to gain insight into current and future trends in proposal management processes across 10 industries. The resulting data has been compiled and analyzed for you in the 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management.

The clash of trend and reality

No doubt about it, the events of 2020 greatly influenced B2B sales — and proposal management for many organizations was not immune. In 2021, as we all seek more certainty, the most consistent trend we’ve spotted is that digital transformation in sales, marketing, and proposal management assures generic proposals will never again make the shortlist. Budgets in 2021 will be tight, and each new business purchase will involve increased scrutiny and justification. So how can your proposal be competitive?

For any proposal to have a chance, it has to illustrate how your solution solves the issuer’s specific problem, and it has to speak to proposal reviewers and decision-makers alike. This requires your organization to focus on responding only to the requests that you think you can win. It also helps to have dedicated proposal writers experienced in developing content that appeals to your target audience.

Both of these considerations clash with two trends our research identified: the need to respond to more RFPs in 2021, paired with a resistance to increasing headcount. The research shows that many organizations understand that they need to respond to more RFPs in 2021 in order to play the odds and generate revenue. With RFP opportunities averaging between $1M and $3M (according to RFPIO data), each one has the potential to make a significant impact.

But how can you respond to more requests, while simultaneously focusing only on the requests you have the best shot at winning? RFP technology enables organizations to efficiently invest time in the RFPs they go after, increasing the rate at which organizations can generate proposals. Some RFP softwares, likeRFPIO, even enable data-driven analyses of the characteristics common to all the deals you win, helping you focus your time where you have the greatest possibility of success.

It’s concerning, however, that proposal team headcount is expected to remain at its 2020 status quo throughout 2021. This indicates proposal managers will have to learn to do more with less. It also means that unless you already have proposal writers on staff, you’re less likely to hire any this year. You may want to buck that trend because our research also found that organizations with dedicated proposal professionals lap competitors by 3.5X.

75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than 2020. But only 37% plan to increase staff.

Organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submit 3x more RFPs than those without

Survey says: Douse proposals in fresh-baked cookie scents RFP software is an advantage

“With RFP competition predicted to increase, and teams already being challenged to do more with less, keeping proposal team staffing at 2020-levels only adds pressure. Proposal teams will need to invest in technology and automation to scale their responses, enhance efficiency, and maximize output.”

Fewer than half of the respondents to our survey currently use RFP software. This is surprising, considering the fact that those that use RFP software were able to submit 43% more proposals in 2020. Technology is transforming the proposal management landscape, making it easier for organizations to efficiently create their first proposal draft, thus giving them back the time they need to personalize responses to win effectively.

Only 43% of companies use RFP-specific technology today

We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool. One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. Yet another asserts that up to 40% of a worker’s productive time is lost while switching between apps, a loss of focus it attributes to “context switching.”

For the sake of productivity, efficiency, personalization, as well as to help keep up with steeper competition for each request, organizations that want to take advantage of more revenue-generating opportunities will need to streamline their technology and automation to be effective in 2021 and beyond.

Check out the full report to learn more about the state of proposal management, including our four recommendations for success in 2021. If you’re one of those organizations trying to keep up without RFP technology, schedule a demo of RFPIO today. If you are already an RFPIO user looking to streamline your tech stack to increase efficiency, fill out this form to schedule time with your Account Manager.

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